When manufacturers reopen or welcome back their full workforce, certain changes to operations will be required.
The required changes are beyond your control, but there are things that can be done to set yourself up for success while initiating the necessary updates.
Note: For a full list of those requirements, please visit the CDC website.
It probably comes as no surprise to you, but things like sanitizing stations after every use, social distancing rules, etc. will soon be necessary, if you haven’t already added those steps to your process. While these may seem like small changes to the average person, to a manufacturer, this means changing large portions of the plant – layouts of production lines, walkways, material changes, etc.
Many manufacturers, including yourself, have spent years working to incorporate lean strategies to increase performance and productivity, but in the course of a few short months, all of that hard work will have to be reworked. These changes will have a massive impact on efficiency, performance, throughput, quality, OEE, and many more.
The thought of restarting many of the lean and continuous improvement efforts implemented over the years on new floor layouts while also keeping mandated health guidelines in mind is overwhelming to even the best of manufacturers. How could this enormous task possibly be accomplished?
How are you going to set yourself up for success? How do you ensure all of the tools you’ve used in the past will again be used to increase productivity and performance in this new age? How do you maintain continuous improvement?
You need visibility into your processes.
Some of these things you can do now, while demand has slowed and you’re not producing nearly as much. You can start to implement these changes while working with a reduced workforce.
But, when all of your team members are back, and you may still be making changes, how do you set yourself up for success?
The health and safety of your workforce is your number 1 priority, but once you get new safety protocols in place, you need to focus on maintaining optimal production and performance levels.
When do you start monitoring to ensure those new performance indicators are met? Are you even running at the same rates you were before?
Are you having more downtime? Have the reasons for that changed? Is it now related to the changes you’ve made?
These are all questions you, and many others, are likely going to be asking yourselves in the near future. What if you could have the answers, in real-time?
“How Will Manufacturing Guidelines and Recommendations Affect Me?”
At each shift change, people are going to have to sanitize their stations, and it’s likely that people in the next shift will sanitize those same stations before even beginning work, just to make sure it actually was cleaned.
These things aren’t optional, and it’s likely you’ll be losing valuable time on sanitizing (and other mandated health practices) that would normally be spent on making products. Can you make it up? Can you find efficiencies somewhere else to replace the time lost sanitizing?
The key to these changes is measurement. Measuring, measuring, and measuring again to see where gains can be made. All of the assumptions you ran your factory floor on before are now different, and as such, need to be reevaluated (and you guessed it, re-measured) to set a new baseline going forward.
This leads to what could be considered the biggest change of them all and 1 that will likely pose the most difficult measurement challenge – social distancing. The 6-foot distance between each person requirement now changes the flow of your entire plant (and inevitably, changes how you measure performance and efficiency).
Maybe before, a material handler would drop of parts right next to an operator. Now, that has to be done at least 6 feet away.
That once high traffic aisle used to walk around the plant, sometimes merely 1 foot from one another, now has to be sectioned off so there are clear indicators how much distance you must maintain and which direction you can walk in. Or, you’ll have to create alternative routes altogether.
Where you were once assembling parts side by side now has to be sectioned off with plexiglass partitions or clear 6-foot distances.
There are other guidelines that may not be required but strongly recommended:
- Taking temperatures of employees before they enter the factory, increasing the amount of time between shift changes.
- Restricting lunch rooms to certain max capacity, now requiring additional lunch shifts so people don’t stack up in the lunchroom. Maybe you even need to attach a sensor to the room to count how many people go in and out to maintain that new capacity number.
- Before office personnel could tour the plant floor at their leisure, but now if they don’t absolutely need to be on the floor, they probably won’t be allowed to enter at all, restricted to their designated offices.
And while it won’t affect productivity or performance, everyone in the company will now be required to wear PPE masks, even if they didn’t have to before. Manufacturing won’t be affected, but it will affect your bottom line costs. How do you recuperate those costs?
Educate Yourself, Your Team, and Learn How to Set Yourself Up for Success
You’re dealing with so much change, all at once. Every single area of your plant is going to have to change. There are new rules to keep people safe. And up until this point, no one has really had to deal with this much change at one time, except maybe with the opening of a new plant.
This is new territory. How do you understand throughput and the ability to deliver to customers on time and meet needs? Depending on the industry your customer is in, the need to meet demand could be pretty challenging.
Without a system like ours, how will you do that?
You can no longer conduct traditional time studies where people go out on the line, looking at production and insights. It takes too much valuable time that you now need more than ever, doesn’t follow social distancing guidelines, and is most likely breaking non-essential personnel only guidelines.
Having a system like SensrTrx gives the visibility you will need during this time of mass changes, providing real-time understanding so you can react, quickly, and meet customer demand, etc.
We truly don’t know how ensuring success with all of these changes would be possible without a system like ours.
Don’t Play the Guessing Game
Many of our customers are in the process of implementing these changes, but their office staff is still working from home. How do they react to problems or get visibility into the factory while at home? How do they understand what’s going?
In this case, an example tells the story best. We have one customer who reads a report every day, generated by the software, that summarizes the day’s performance. Depending on what he sees, he makes calls to figure out why things happened.
- How was that machine down for 5 minutes yesterday?
- Why wasn’t demand met?
- What’s the plan to ensure production is met for the week, given the reduced production yesterday?
Seeing these numbers every day gives him the ability to discuss action items in real-time, with both those who are at home and those still managing operations at the plant, to ensure production goes on as planned.
If this customer didn’t have the daily remote insight, it would all be a guessing game.
Without SensrTrx, he’d maybe still receive a report, but it would be a week later. When he calls the operator to figure out why the problem happened, the operator might not remember why, or because of the time frame, there are other problems that are higher priority now. The issue that happened last week gets pushed to the backburner or simply, forgotten about, and no changes are made to improve production.
You’ve Adhered to the Guidelines, Now What?
Examples aside, if you do a quick Google search, you’ll find a ton of guidance on how to keep your employees safe and what guidelines need to be followed. You’ll read about the changes you need to make to ensure compliance, but there’s no guide on what to do after those changes have been made.
How do you ensure production keeps going? And not just “going”, but how do you do better? How do you make sure you increase productivity and performance while maintaining quality?
There hasn’t been any guidance, until now.
Let alone the fact that in some of these companies, really big manufacturers, those with unions, for example, will need to track whether people sanitize after every shift, how many people are actually in the lunchrooms at once. It may not seem like a big deal, but if someone does get sick, those big corporations and unions will want to know that all safety guidelines were followed and not simply ignored for the sake of producing on time. If it’s not done well, manufacturers could be potentially be liable.
Data tracking and visibility will be essential during these times and moving forward.
And, while it’s only our opinion, we believe that many of these changes and requirements will become mandated going forward, even after these trying times. The reason? Simply to ensure future safety of employees.